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Photography by Michael Wiltbank

Living in a rental may at first seem like a somewhat restrictive option. It’s not like you can knock down walls to configure the space to the home of your dreams and expect to get your security deposit back. But while there are definitely some restrictions—that you should discuss with your landlord well before moving in—there are tons of ways to make your little rental apartment the style-forward gem you want it to be. Think big and fake a kitchen backsplash or spruce up a sad wall with some fresh removable wallpaper.

Alternatively, go small. Even swapping out the little things here and there can make a big difference in having a home that feels customized. And the good news? The little things tend to also be the least expensive. For more on how to make your rental feel more you, read on to discover every small switch you can make.

Photography by Michael Wiltbank

Cabinet Pulls

Whether updating a cheap Ikea piece or giving an old antique a modern look, something as small as swapping your cabinet knobs and pulls can make any furniture item look brand new. Start by making your rental kitchen’s cabinets feel less dated or uniform with a set of modern, geometric knobs (Hex Brushed Brass Knob, CB2, $4.95) and move on to other rooms of your apartment.

For example, these beautiful leather straps (Leather Drawer Pulls, Etsy, $6.74) were all it took to completely change the look of this minimalist bathroom.

Switch Plates

Generally overlooked, switch plates often fall victim to sloppy paint jobs done by the previous tenant in attempt to get her security deposit back. But if you think the splatter paint on your light switch is seriously bringing down your decor vibe, fear not. Choose something sleek and contemporary (Fenton Single Toggle Switchplate, Rejuvenation, $12) or opt for a more ornate option that almost looks like an antique (Swan Switch Plate, Anthropologie, $17.60-$22.40). 

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle


Where space is limited in kitchens and bathrooms and one of the few things that actually exists in each room is a sink, a faucet can make or break the style of the space. Turn your bathroom sink into less of an eyesore with a sculptural fixture (Modern Bathroom Sink Faucet, Homary, $89.99) or a wall-mounted option that takes up zero valuable countertop space (Vintage Wall-Mounted Faucet, Houzz, $171.56).

For your kitchen, upgrade to something that makes your home smarter. Delta’s Allentown Faucet changes color according to the water temperature and features a simple design sure to blend in with your existing decor.

Light Bulbs

There is nothing worse than living under harsh fluorescent lights that are reminiscent of either your first year dorm room or the refrigerated aisle at the supermarket. Choose softer light bulbs in yellow tones rather than blue to foster a calmer environment. Or, go the funky route and infuse color into your space via tinted bulbs. Pink-hued light bulbs (Utilitech Pink LED Decorative Light Bulb, Lowe’s, $6.38) mimic the feel of the ever-popular neon light trend at a fraction of the cost.

Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Light Fixtures

Alternatively, revamp your lighting altogether with a statement light fixture. With so many design-focused options available, it’s almost like having an art piece on display in your apartment. Often times apartments can be tiny, cramped, and devoid of any built-in lighting to begin with; if this is the case, you’ll need to add your own. Try a sculptural tabletop piece (Squirrel Cage Desk Lamp, Sturlesi Shop, $72) or a chic sconce (Lunar Sconce, Etsy, $635) If you don’t have a blank canvas, easily swap out ugly ceiling lighting for a more design-driven pendant light (Aion Wood Lamp, Etsy, $176.81).

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Shower Head

If there’s anything you can do to make your early morning, pre-coffee pre-work shower a little more luxurious, do it. Not only will a new shower head probably look heaps better than whatever dated device it’s replacing, but picking the right one for you enables you to control water quality and pressure—the combination of which can literally make for a healthier shower. Buy an easy-to-install, easy-to-clean option (The Original Chrome Shower Head, Shower Clear, $275) or one with a specialized filtration system (Prestige Handheld Vitamin C Shower Head, Aroma Sense, $125) to immediately revamp your bathroom.

Just be sure you hold onto the original shower head to put it back on before you move out!


Replace chipped door handles or doorknobs to give every entrance a fresh look. Of course, you could go the extra step and paint your actual door… however for those with budget restraints (or strict landlords), upgrading the doorknob alone is a far more economical way to make a difference without risking the wrath of the leasing office. A simple, timeless option (Classic Hardware Knob, Pottery Barn, $7.50) is always a safe bet for a polished look.

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Window Coverings

There are literally so many options for ways to upgrade your windows, you should never have to suffer through dingy blinds that look like they haven’t seen a cleaning supply since 1972. Curtains are the easiest way to instantly make any room look elevated, so go all out and pick coverings that suit the style of each part of your home.

Something that lets light stream through and takes up the full length of your wall (Pom Tassel Curtain, Anthropologie, $62.40-$86.40) will heighten even the smallest of living rooms, making it feel instantly bigger. Go the bohemian route with a woven hanging (Meadowsweet Macrame Panel, Urban Outfitters, $89) for a more unique accent that’ll tie the whole room together.

See more ideas for decorating your rental:

6 Easy Fixes for Tall Kitchen Cabinets How to Fake a Backsplash in a Rental 11 Tips to Make Your Rental Feel Like You Own It

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